Freedom of Religion and a Bill of Rights
The Bible tells us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Therefore, when we hear of moves to press on with legislation in favour of anti-discrimination, freedom of religion, and a bill of rights, we ought to be mindful of what precisely is being suggested. John Henry Newman warned us that ‘the world is sweet to the lips, but bitter to the taste. It pleases at first, but not at last. It looks gay on the outside, but evil and misery lie concealed within.’ This kind of legislation can appear attractive, but it is fraught with not-so-hidden dangers. What is wrong with this approach?
The moral relativism of today will mean that decadence becomes entrenched
Christianity teaches us to think in terms of right and wrong, but the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Anti-Discrimination Board, naturally, think in terms of rights. In Christianity it is a sin to bow down to idols, to murder, to commit adultery, to steal, to be covetous or proud, or to break any other commandments. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). There is a fundamental discrimination between truth and error, right and wrong.
But under the ‘rights’ approach, divorced from moral absolutes, it becomes a sin to think in terms of right and wrong. In the Christian scheme of things, the magistrate is to punish evildoers and praise those who do what is good (1 Pet. 2:14). In a system governed by moral relativism, the law is supposedly morally neutral; the one real wrong left is discrimination. Hence it is supposedly wrong to discriminate against people on grounds of sexual preference. This is a ludicrous and dangerous proposition. So far it has usually been interpreted to mean that one is obliged to pander to homosexuals and transvestites, but logically it means that practices such as necrophilia or paedophilia are above criticism. If these practices can be criticised, then the anti-discrimination approach is self-defeating.
The alarming thing is that those with legal authority apparently wish to impose their definition of sin upon everybody else. In 2004 Britain’s Royal Navy allowed the worship of the devil on its ships. That is where this approach leads.
Legislation will be decided by unelected and immovable judges
One major problem is that rights and freedoms require definition, and hence there will be more dependence on lawyers rather than on law. Dr Samuel Johnson wisely pointed out:
How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!
The 1936 Soviet Constitution was perhaps the twentieth century’s most liberal sounding constitution, but it was promulgated during the heyday of the brutal dictator Josef Stalin. While Stalin murdered his friends and his enemies in their millions, Soviet citizens were guaranteed all kinds of rights and freedoms. Small wonder that the ancient historian Tacitus made the pithy comment that ‘The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.’
In 2001 the state Labor government in Victoria passed the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. This was supposedly designed to stamp out religious vilification. Instead, it led to a long, drawn-out and expensive case against two Christian pastors, Daniel Scot and Danny Nalliah, who had ventured to criticise the Qur’an in the context of a seminar on Christian evangelism. The most cogent criticism of this whole approach has come from a former Labor premier of NSW, Bob Carr, a religious agnostic, who has declared, quite rightly, that ‘More judicial review is the last thing Australia needs.’ C. S. Lewis saw this decades ago, and commented: ‘It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.’
Society will become more litigious and there will be more human rights abuses
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief of 1981 affirms that ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.’ (Art. 1.1) This freedom is not absolute as it may be prescribed by laws to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. (Art.I.3.) It goes on to declare: ‘No one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons, or person on grounds of religion or other beliefs.’ (Art. 2.1) Discrimination between human beings on grounds of religion or beliefs is denounced in the strongest terms as ‘an affront to human dignity’, ‘a violation of ... human rights and fundamental freedoms’, and ‘an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations between nations’ (Art. 3.) Hence all states are to take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. (Art. 4.1, 2)
This may sound all very edifying, noble and self-explanatory, but it is fanciful. There is no clear distinction between Christianity and Satanism, or the Ten Commandments and the practices of suttee (widow burning) or child sacrifice in the Ganges River. Armed with no clear morality and an agenda that makes rights paramount, it would be quite in order for judges to allow polygamy or homosexual marriage, and to outlaw any body, including a church, which refused to kow-tow to this approach. The discussion paper of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century, released in August 2008, asks: ‘How can faith communities be inclusive of people of diverse sexualities?’ The question presupposes the conclusion, and it is the wrong one.
Discrimination is not inherently evil. What is so wrong about a Muslim refusing to employ a woman whom he regards as not adequately covered up so far as her clothing is concerned? Why should a Christian publisher be forced to employ a New Ager? Why should the Protestant Churches’ Cricket Competition be dismantled? Such situations may prove to be paradise for lawyers and litigants, but the art of manufacturing grievances is not one to be encouraged. What appears to confer rights – or recognise them – may in fact take them away. As George Orwell put it: ‘Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’